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Greek Islands Postcards

holiday travel guides to the islands of Greece

As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holidays in Greece and travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.

Our Popular islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.

The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.

The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.

Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic holidays in Greece.

By far the frankest and best written guide to the Greek islands - Guardian Online

Greek tourism feels the pinch

Taverna

They may be arriving in greater numbers than even but tourist visitors to the Greek islands are less willing to part with their hard earned cash. Latest figures show holiday spending in Greece down a huge 9.3% this year despite an increase in visitor arrivals. The average spend for the holidaymakers in Greece and the Greek Islands is €546 this year. Experts say Greece is attracting more budget conscious visitors who would normally head to Turkey or Egypt, others say the migrant crisis hasn't helped. Hotel prices have been slashed this year to tempt more tourists so the tight spending pattern is a double whammy for Greek hotel and taverna owners. Hikes in VAT rates on food and other commodities hasn't helped either. German and US visitors were the worst spenders - down 26% and 10% respectively while Brits spent just 5% less on average than last year.

Favourite Greek beaches

Vatera Lesvos

Vatera beach on Lesvos

Vatera is a long sandy beach on the south-east coast of Lesvos with gentle shelving sands and islets offshore. Forested hills, vineyards and olive groves give Vatera a quiet countryside atmosphere, with Agios Fokas port nearby.

Agios Ioannis Mykonos

Agios Ioannis on Mykonos

Made famous by the hit movie Shirley Valentine, Agios Ioannis is a picturesque beach of gently shelving sand found just south of Mykonos Town. A tiny chapel sits above a small harbour in beach hotel territory.

Haraki Rhodes

Haraki resort on Rhodes

Haraki has a stone beach backed by tavernas, cafes, and a few shops with the ruins of Feraklos Castle above. A small harbour sits at one end. Popular with Greeks, Haraki is one of Rhodes' more unspoilt resorts.

Greek seaplane flights sinking fast

Seaplanes

Hopes of getting Greek island seaplane services into the air this year appear to have been sunk, thanks to more red tape from the Greek government. Hellenic Seaplanes announced plans to operate up to 100 routes across Greece in 2013. But the scheme has been beset by delays in setting up a proper legal framework, the failure to grant waterway licences and other Greek red tape. The latest setback is a proposed bill to nationalise all the current privately financed waterways, a move that could effectively kill off the fledgling project. With more 50 waterway applications awaiting approval Greek officials have failed to grant a single license in 2015. Talks on a Greek seaplane network began in 2000, but 16 years later not a single seaplane flight has got out of deep water.

Featured Greek places

Oia Santorini

Oia resort on Santorini

Oia sits on the northern tip of Santorini and it's a popular haunt of the day tripper crowds. Narrow streets are packed with upmarket boutiques and shops. The village is noted for its windmills and traditional cave houses.

Kastro Skiathos

Hill fort Kastro of Skiathos

The Kastro is the a fortified former 14th century capital located on a rock outcrop above Skiathos town. Little remains of the 20 churches and 300 odd homes but dramatic views make this a favourite for day trip boats.

Drogorati Kefalonia

Drogorati Cave on Kefalonia

The cool, damp limestone caves of Drogorati, around 60 metres deep, bristle with impressive stalagmites and stalactites. The main cavern is hugely impressive and is even big enough to host orchestral concerts.

More Blue Flags for Greek beaches

Beach

Greek beaches picked up 486 Blue Flag awards this year to put the country in second place behind Spain for clean beaches. Holiday beach resorts lifted 56 more Blue Flags than last year with most going to beaches along the Halkidiki coast on the Greek mainland, to the island of Crete and to holiday beach hotspots in the Cyclades. Crete topped the Blue Flag table with 112 island awards followed the south Aegean islands with 68 and 49 for the Ionian islands which include Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkas and Zante. Rhodes lifted 25 Blue Flag accolades followed by Lesvos with 11, Kos with eight, Santorini with six and Paros with five. Many smaller islands such as Alonissos, Skyros and Ikaria failed to make the grade because they did not meet strict criteria for disabled access.

Greek ferry timetables out earlier

Ferries

Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. Now things are different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of the previous year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands and help extend the holiday season.

Rules relaxed on Greek scuba diving

Diving

Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.

A very quick guide to the Greek Islands

Greek travel map

There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the north-east is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.

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